Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus

Status;  International importance;  Population estimates;  Distribution;  Annual abundance/ productivity; Phenology/diet/survival

 

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Description

Mediterranean Gull vignette

The following has been adapted from original text by Matthew Parsons in Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland (with permission from A&C Black, London).

 

The Mediterranean gull is the most recent addition to the species of seabirds breeding in the UK. It has increased as a breeding species in recent decades, but as recently as Seabird 2000, its population in these islands numbered little more than 100 pairs. However, by 2010, there were over 600-700 nesting pairs, mostly on the south and south-east coasts of England.

 

The range of the Mediterranean gull has expanded markedly over the last 50 years. A westward expansion started in Hungary, where it was breeding regularly by 1953, then into Germany and Belgium during the 1960s and the Netherlands by 1970. Range expansion also occurred in an eastward direction during the 1970s and 1980s. The first breeding occurrence in Britain was in 1968, at Needs Ore Point (Hampshire). Thereafter, a pair bred at Dungeness (Kent), in 1979, increasing to two pairs by 1985. A site in north Kent was colonised in 1983, which later became established as one of the major colonies in England. Also during this period, a handful of other breeding attempts were made, including pairings with black-headed gulls. The first recorded breeding attempt in Northern Ireland was in Antrim in 1995.

 


Conservation status

 

Mediterranean gull is currently identified as a conservation priority in the following:

Amber listed in Birds of Conservation Concern 4 (2015 update)

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - protected under Schedule 1

EC Birds Directive - listed in Annex 1 and as a migratory species

(further information on Conservation Designations for UK Taxa)

Amber listed in Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2014-2019 (2014 update)

 


International importance

 

UK Population % Biogeographic Population % World Population
110 AON* 0.1 (Europe excl. Russia & Turkey) 0.1

 

*AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

The UK population figure was derived from data in Mitchell, P.I., Newton, S.F., Ratcliffe, N. and Dunn, T.E. (eds.) 2004. Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland. Poyser, London. This was also the source of figures for the Biogeographic and World populations.

 


UK population estimates and change 1969-2002 (census data)

 

 

Operation Seafarer

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000

(1998-2002)

UK Population estimate (AON*) 0 1 110
% change since previous census N/a N/a +11,000

 

*AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

For census results for individual countries and Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man see under relevant sections below.

 


Distribution/abundance

 

The Seabird 2000 census provides the most comprehensive recent assessment of the distribution and abundance of breeding seabirds. Numbers of Mediterranean gull found in different regions, and a map showing the location and size of colonies, is provided in the Seabird 2000 Mediterranean gull results page (PDF, 1.0 mb).

 

An interactive map is available on the NBN Gateway, where you can filter to display only the Seabird 2000 data.  For more recent, but less comprehensive, coverage view the distribution on the NBN with all available contributing datasets.

 

The locations sampled during the annual Seabird Monitoring Programme provide some information on distribution and are accessible via the Seabird Monitoring Programme online database.

 


Annual abundance and productivity by geographical area

 

With reference to the regional accounts below please note the following.

Breeding abundance: graphs of abundance index with 95% CLs are only shown for a region where the trend produced has been deemed accurate (see methods of analysis). Where a trend was thought to be inaccurate, graphs of abundance at major colonies in a region may be shown instead, particularly if such colonies hold greater than 10% of the regional population, are monitored frequently and may thus help illustrate regional population fluctuations outwith national censuses. Occasionally, too few data have been collected regionally to produce either of these.

Productivity: graphs of productivity are only shown if analysis of breeding success data produced a significant result for regional and/or year effects (again see methods of analysis). If results were not significant, then a regional mean productivity value is given. However, on some occasions too few data are available from which to provide a meaningful average. Furthermore, for 11 species where the quality of monitoring data available was considered high, population viability analysis was undertaken at the UK level and the results of this are also reported.   

 



 

Breeding abundance

 

Mediterranean gull is the most recent addition to the breeding seabird fauna of the British Isles. The species first bred in the UK in 1968, but numbers remained very low until the late 1980s. In 2015, data have been submitted to the SMP from 14 colonies, including the largest sites throughout the UK. At these a total of 549 AON were recorded compared to 110 AON during Seabird 2000, an increase of 374%. Taking smaller colonies and those not counted recently (of which there are at least 26 in total) into account, it is thought that the UK population lies close to 800 pairs2. Most large colonies are located in south and south-east England, although the distribution is expanding northward with smaller colonies becoming established elsewhere. The colonisation of the UK was a result of the expansion in population size and range from the species’ core population around the Black Sea and into other European countries in the 1950s and 1960s1. There is no evidence that the colonisation is related to climate change. Predictions of increased storminess due to climate change may increase the incidence of tidal inundation of nests, potentially affecting reproductive output, but there is much uncertainty about how this and predicted increases in sea level will affect the population size of this and other species that nest close to the tidal mark.

 

Productivity

 

Relatively few data on productivity are available but, in recent years, the larger colonies have experienced fairly high levels of success helping to drive population increase.

 

 

This species does not yet breed in Scotland although birds have recently been observed summering in Scottish gull colonies and displaying to, and paired with, black-headed gulls1.

 

 

Population estimates and change 1969-2002 (census data)

 

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998-2002)

Population estimate (AON*) 0 1 108
% change since previous census    N/a N/a +10,700

 

* AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding Abundance

 

The Seabird Colony Register recorded only one pair of Mediterranean gulls breeding in England. Although breeding was first confirmed in 1968 in Hampshire, nesting was sporadic until the late 1980s. Thereafter, colonisation spread outwards from southern and south-east England, so that by Seabird 2000 there were 108 pairs nesting, some as far north as Lancashire and West Yorkshire. However, the main population was still centred in the south. Around 767-779 breeding pairs were reported to the Rare Breeding Birds Panel in 20142. Nevertheless, it is thought that the English population lies closer to 800 pairs, as data were not received from some colonies in 2014 plus numbers at some were only estimated2

 

Productivity

 

Data submitted to the SMP on the productivity of Mediterranean gulls in England are sparse; thus, no meaningful average productivity value can be given.

 

 

Breeding Abundance

 

The Mediterranean gull is a recent colonist to Wales; one breeding pair was known in 2009 and 2010 and two pairs were present in 2011 (although breeding was only proven for one)1. In 2014, numbers had since increased to five breeding pairs. No data was submitted to the SMP in 2015.

 

Productivity

 

Because the Mediterranean gull is a recent colonist to Wales (first breeding in 2009) data submitted to the SMP on their productivity is sparse; thus, no meaningful average value can be given. However, at least two young were fledged from three nesting pairs in 2013 and three chicks fledged from five nests in 2014.

 

 

Population estimates and change 1969-2002 (census data)

 

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998-2002)

Population estimate (AON*) 0 0 2
% change since previous census    N/a N/a N/a

 

* AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding Abundance

 

Mediterranean gull is a recent colonist in Northern Ireland with the first breeding record occurring in County Antrim in 1995, with typically one to three pairs recorded annually in the years immediately afterward. Seabird 2000 recorded two pairs but numbers have increased since then although the species is still a rare breeding bird; at least seven breeding pairs were known in 2012, six in 2013, seven in 2014 and six in 20153,4.

 

Productivity

 

Data submitted to the SMP on the productivity of Mediterranean gulls in Northern Ireland are sparse; thus, no meaningful average productivity value can be given.

 

 

Population estimates and change 1969-2002 (census data)

 

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998-2002)

Population estimate (AON*) 0 0 3
% change since previous census    N/a N/a N/a

 

* AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding Abundance

 

The first breeding record for the Republic of Ireland occurred in 1996 when a pair was found at a site in County Wexford. By the time of Seabird 2000, three pairs were known. Further increase has occurred since then; for example, 18 and 16 AON were reported at just one site in 2012 and 2013 respectively, which has continued to grow and held 23 AON in 2014 and 28 AON in 2015. However, data might not have been submitted from all breeding sites in recent years so the total population may be higher.

 

Productivity

 

Data submitted to the SMP on the productivity of Mediterranean gulls in the Republic of Ireland are sparse; thus, no meaningful average productivity value can be given.

 

 

Population estimates and change 1969-2002 (census data)

 

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998-2002)

Population estimate (AON*) 0 0 5
% change since previous census    N/a N/a N/a

 

* AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding Abundance

 

Mediterranean gull colonised Ireland in the mid 1990s, with breeding first occurring in Northern Ireland in 1995 and the Republic of Ireland in 1996. The population increased slowly with five pairs counted during Seabird 2000. Further increase has certainly occurred since then with a minimum of 25 AON at sites in 2012, 22 in 2013, 30 in 2014 and 34 in 2015. After a long period of establishment perhaps the number of breeding Mediterranean gulls in Ireland is now starting to escalate as they did in England.

 

Productivity

 

Data submitted to the SMP on the productivity of Mediterranean gulls from colonies throughout Ireland are sparse; thus, no meaningful average productivity value can be given.

 

 

Mediterranean gull does not breed on the Isle of Man.

 

 

Mediterranean gull does not breed on the Channel Islands.

 

 


UK phenology, diet, survival rates

 

No data have been collected as part of the Seabird Monitoring Programme.

 


References

1 Parsons, M. 2004. Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus. In: Mitchell, P.I., Newton, S.F., Ratcliffe, N. and Dunn, T.E. (eds.). 2004. Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland: 187-195. Poyser, London.

2 Holling, M. and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel. 2014. Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2016. British Birds 109: 483-558.

3 Holling, M. and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel. 2012. Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2014. British Birds 107: 504-560.

4 Leonard, K. and Wolsey, S. (eds.). 2016. Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2015. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford. 

 


Partners

Data have been provided to the SMP by the generous contributions of its partners, other organisations and volunteers throughout Britain and Ireland. Partners to the SMP are: BirdWatch Ireland; The British Trust for Ornithology; Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; Natural Resources Wales; Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (Isle of Man); Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Republic of Ireland); States of Guernsey Government; JNCC; Manx Birdlife; Manx National Heritage; The National Trust; National Trust for Scotland; Natural England; Northern Ireland Environment Agency; The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Scottish Natural Heritage; Seabird Group; Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group; Scottish Wildlife Trust.  More about the SMP partners >>

 
Image of Mediterranean gull appears courtesy of Ian Rendall ©is subject to international copyright law and may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever.